Tuesday 29 September 2015

10:49 Hey Jude (pt.3) Rhyme Scheme Slight Return - Nicholas Tozier Guest Post

There are many excellent websites and books around but I'm fortunate to have a few real live people I can call on for advice when I hit a bump in the road as well. I'm honoured to have Nicholas Tozier from Song Written as a blogging buddy and one of my 'Beatles Brain Trust'. He's made stellar contributions to BSA in the past (here and here) and his reply to my questions about Hey Jude's rhyme scheme was so interesting I got his permission to post it here.

Hey Matt

I’d never looked at Hey Jude on the page, but you’re right; looking down the line ends is less than half the story with this rhyme scheme. There are lots of surprises in this one.

I think the simplest way to explain it is:

End-rhyme is the default in most lyrics, but verse one of Hey Jude uses chain rhyme and internal rhyme – meaning the rhymes resolve and turn around more quickly. It’s analogous to when a melody touches on the tonic for a sense of resolution, then immediately moves off the tonic.

What’s actually happening is a little more nuanced than that, but that’s most of the story.

I don’t think a linear list of rhymes does justice to this verse.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember, to let her under your skin
Then you'll begin to make it better

Let’s reduce it to a wireframe of syllables (x), with rhyme and refrain positions labeled:

x x x x x A
x x A x x x x BR
x B x x B x x x x C
x x x x C x x BR

Whatever’s going on here, we sure can’t call it end rhyme. The rhymes tend to open at the end of one line, then resolve at the beginning of the next line. Lines one, two, and the beginning of three are straight-up chain rhyme.

Then, in the middle of line three Paul adds a plot twist with another internal “B” rhyme, surprising our ears. This sets the new rhyme-point as the middle of the line. “C” sets up as expected at the end of line three, and then “C” resolves toward the middle of the verse’s last line, like line three did.

Still, I think the best way to get a feel for the truth of Verse One’s sonic mysteries is just staring at the diagram.

Thanks again for sharing this. I had a blast trying to deconstruct it.


P.S. Kinda intriguing that the refrain “make it better” has a different melody each time, so we actually don’t hear it as an obvious refrain so much. Its repetition is downplayed by the melody. That might be significant to the verse’s overall lyrical feel, because the refrain is the only end rhyme, and since the melody changes, the end of the quatrain sounds less resolved, more unsettled, building our anticipation for the next section.

Song Written is one of the best songwriting sites out there. Check it out.

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